Providence and Prayer
Psalm 28:1-9
To you will I cry, O LORD my rock; be not silent to me: lest, if you be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit.…

The contents of this psalm are in some respects similar to the contents of others already noticed. But there is one peculiarity about it to which we here propose to devote special attention. It is seen in the psalmist's prayer against his enemies. On account of such petitions, much reproach has been cast on the Bible itself - as if all the sixty-six books of which the Scriptures are composed were to be held responsible for the prayers and petitions of every Old Testament saint! No such absurdity could have root-hold if the actual state of the case were clearly understood. And we deem it to be of no small importance that where readers of the Bible find special difficulty, expounders thereof should put forth special strength, and by no means pass lightly over such passages, or leave them unaccounted for. This psalm is a reflection of varied scenes which may be witnessed in the world - of the known laws of God's providence, of earnest desires which go up from the hearts of God's people in prayer, and of grateful songs which go forth from their lips in praise. There is no reason for attributing the psalm to any one else than to David. Nor do we know of any times in the ancient history which the psalm more clearly reflects than those of the shepherd-king. Nor is there any Old Testament character who would be so likely to speak and write and pray in the style of the psalm before us. In dealing with it as a unity (which method alone falls in with the plan of this section of the Commentary), we have four lines of thought to unfold.

I. HERE IS A TWOFOLD OUTLOOK. The writer of this psalm was the anointed of the Lord (ver. 8). He was Israel's king; and was withal encompassed by foes. Not only were there those who were the people of God, his inheritance (ver. 9), but there were also those who regarded not God, and who cared not for man (vers. 3, 5). And the time has not come when such a double outlook has ceased. The righteous, the wicked - tares and wheat - both are still on "the field of the world," growing together until the harvest.


1. For the righteous. (Ver. 9.) "Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance." Put the emphasis on "thy,' "thine;" herein lies the force of the praying one's tender pleading with God "Feed them;" i.e. tend them, rule them; let them find thee all that thou art as their Shepherd. "Lift them up," equivalent to "bear them up," carry them in thine arms (Isaiah 63:9; Isaiah 40:11; Deuteronomy 1:31; Deuteronomy 32:11; see Perowne hereon).

2. Against the wicked. (Ver. 4.) It is here that so many have found a difficulty. We acknowledge that there would be a difficulty if these were the words of God to man; but as they are the words of man to God, why should there be any difficulty at all? Is any one bound to defend every word that any saint ever offered in prayer? Surely not. It is, however, only fair to the writer to bear in mind:

(1) That he does not pray against the wicked with personal vindictiveness, but regards them as the enemies of God (ver. 5), and of society likewise (ver. 3).

(2) No saint's prayers ever could go beyond the limits of the inspiration and revelation which were granted to him. No one even now can pray beyond the limits of his own knowledge. In the Old Testament times the all-conquering love of God had not been revealed as it has been to us, and so could not yield fuel for prayer.

(3) That such a prayer as this is an historical representation of the petitions of saints in the psalmist's time, and is no absolute model for our time, with our larger and warmer light-beams from on high. At the same time, we are bound also to remember that we ought not to cherish the like feelings towards the wicked that we do towards the righteous. Yea, if we are righteous, we cannot. And while we plead with God to build up those who are pure and true, we ought to plead with him to frustrate the designs of unreasonable and wicked men, and to arise and vindicate the great cause of righteousness and truth. And this we may do, while leaving it absolutely with God to deal with wicked people as he sees fit. The Judge of all the earth will do right, and we surely can leave the matter there. "Vengeance is mine: I will repay, saith the Lord." Job's words are better than any prayers for vengeance: " I know that my Vindicator liveth." There let us rest. For we have to recognize -

III. A TWOFOLD ACTION OF GOD'S PROVIDENCE. He builds up the righteous, but disconcerts the schemes of the wicked. So the experience of life shows us, and so this psalm indicates.

1. To the righteous. God is

(1) their Strength;

(2) their Shield;

(3) the Stronghold of salvation for them and for their anointed king.

This may be applied in the highest sense (cf. Romans 8:28; Hebrews 2:10).

2. To the wicked. (Ver. 5.) "He shall break them down, and not build them up" (cf. Psalm 18:25, 26; Psalm 37:35; Psalm 73:18-20). God will seem to men according to what they are. If they follow his commandments, peace will attend their steps. If they violate them, all nature will be full of detectives, whips, and stings.


1. Prayer. "Hear... when I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle;" i.e. towards the "mercy-seat" (ver. 2). Although he was not selfish enough to cramp his desires within the limits of his own personal need, yet he was not unnatural enough to leave himself out. In fact, God was so much to him that his very life seemed bound up in God and his loving-kindness; the lack of a message from God to his spirit would almost drive him to despair (vers. 1, 2). But, as is so often the case, the very psalms which begin with the deepest sighing end with the most joyous shouting. Hence, following on prayer, there is:

2. Praise. (Ver. 6.) The lower God takes us down in the valley of humiliation, the higher will he take us up on the mount of exultation (Isaiah 41:16). And those who spend most time with God in weeping and supplication will have the loudest and sweetest strains to raise over the wonders of delivering grace. "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy." This is as true of prayer as it is of work. Note: Making all allowance for the difference of tone in the two dispensations, the Hebrew and the Christian, yet throughout both the same laws hold good.

1. That prayer is one of the forces by means of which God sways the world.

2. That his people have for thousands of years been praying to him to bring in righteousness and to put down wrong of every kind.

3. That it is more certain these prayers will be answered than that the sun will rise to-morrow.

4. And, consequently, it is for men to decide whether to their life there shall attach the privilege of being borne upon the hearts of all God's saints in prayer, or the peril of being surrounded with petitions that they may ultimately be put to shame. - C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: {A Psalm of David.} Unto thee will I cry, O LORD my rock; be not silent to me: lest, if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit.

WEB: To you, Yahweh, I call. My rock, don't be deaf to me; lest, if you are silent to me, I would become like those who go down into the pit.

Man's Cry and God's Response
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